James Oatley

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James Oatley, Snr. (c. 1769–1839) was a British-born colonial Australian watch and clock maker and one-time convict. Oatley, allegedly from Stafford and aged 44, was sentenced to penal transportation for life at Hampshire Assizes on 7 March 1814. James had a number of convictions, dating back to 1806, when he had stolen one ton of cheese. He was sent to Australia for stealing shirts and bedding: Hampshire Chronicle Monday 14 March 1814 p3 [6, 7, 8, 16]

Life in colonial Sydney[edit]

Oatley arrived in Sydney, New South Wales on 27 January 1815 on board the Marquis of Wellington [7, 10]. On 25 October 1821, he was given a conditional pardon. In this record, James is mentioned as a "native of Warwickshire", and a physical description is also provided; he is described as being pale, with dark brown hair, grey eyes, 5'5", and "stout" (with the remainder of the instrument of pardon being difficult to read) [7, 8, 10].

Oatley was awarded several land grants; in 1831 and on 30 October 1832, 24 December 1833, 23 January 1834, and 27 July 1835. Areas covered by these land grants include Snugborough (in the vicinity of the modern Moorefields Road, Kingsgrove), which he farmed, and Needwood Forest (now Hurstville Grove). In total, the land approximately covered is similar to that now bounded by Canterbury Road, Belmore, to the north, King George Road to the west, Kingsgrove Road to the east, and the Georges River to the south [15].


James Oatley died on 9 October 1839. His death notice in the Sydney Monitor gives his age as 72 years; the Parish record of his burial gives James' age as 70 years. James was buried on his property, Snugborough [3, 4, 5, 16].


Oatley and his family's legacy has been reflected via geography. In 1903, the southern Sydney suburb of Oatley was named after the family. Prior to that, the area west of the railway line was known as New Oatley's, which was a sub-district of Hurstville, and Oatley Platform; east of the railway line was known as Oatley's, which was a sub-district of Kogarah. In 1905, Frederick Street, Oatley, named after Frederick Stokes Oatley, was constructed as the main street of the new suburb [12].

Oatley Street, Woollahra, lying between Ocean Street and Edgecliffe Street, existed in the 1850s and early 1860s. Frederick Stokes Oatley resided between Ocean Street and Oatley Street, Woollahra [12].

Oatley Lane, Oatley Street, and Oatley Road, all of which were named after James Oatley, Jnr., existed in East Sydney. Oatley Road extended into Paddington. A remnant of Oatley Road still exists in Paddington, running beside the Victoria Barracks [12, 13].

The original Oatley land between Moorefields Road and the railway line through Kingsgrove Station remained largely as open paddocks until it was subdivided for housing and industry in the early 1970s. A street off Kingsgrove Road was named after James Oatley. Just north of Moorefields Road are Robert Street and Eleanor Avenue [13].

Personal life[edit]

The personal life of James Oatley was well documented in the 1825 Muster of New South Wales [2] and in his will [1] [see Talk]. Oatley married twice. In England, he married Sarah Bennett [see Talk]. Little is known about this marriage. James than had a de facto relationship with Mary Stokes, his housekeeper [2]. Mary was the mother of his three sons, James Stokes, Jnr [1], Frederick Stokes [1] and George (1820–1821) shown as James' children in the 1825 Muster [2, 3, 4, 5] and each described in James' will as "my adopted son" [1]. Mary arrived in Sydney on 8 June 1815 on board the Northampton, with her son, then called James [but later renamed Robert], born during the voyage [14]. The 1825 muster clearly indicates that Robert was Mary's child, but not James' child [2]. Robert was described as "an adopted child" in James' will [1]. After Mary's death, Oatley married Mary Ann Bogg in 1833 [1, 3, 4].


  • Marianne/Marion Oatley (c1808-22 March 1866): died as Mrs Borrett [New South Wales Marriage Index; New South Wales Death Index; death notice [ Sydney Morning Herald 23 March 1866] [3, 4, 5, 16] [see Talk].
  • James Oatley (1817–1878) was a coach builder and engineer by trade [3, 4]. James Stokes Oatley, Jnr. assumed responsibiility for running the family farm after Oatley, Snr.'s death [11]. The farm was later sold and James became an innkeeper (also described as licensee and victualler) [12] until he entered the NSW Parliament [12] as a Member of the Legislative Assembly in 1868.[1][2] James married Eleanor Johnson (also known as Ellen, Helena, and Emily), with whom he had eight children. After Eleanor's death, James married Margaret Curtis, with whom he had one daughter [3, 4, 5, 16].
  • Frederick Stokes Oatley (1819–1890) was a watchmaker and Inspector of Abattoirs [12, 19]. Frederick married Jane Weedon, with whom he had twelve children [3, 4, 5, 16]. James, snr gave to Frederick his watchmaking business in George Street, Sydney, and Needwood Forest [1, 12]. By the 1860s, Frederick had given up the watchmaking business; and, in 1881, he sold 300 acres (1.2 km2) of Needwood Forest.
  • Robert Oatley (1815–1876) was adopted by James Oatley, but not his biological child [1, 3, 4, 5]. Robert, a cooper by trade, was born at sea en route to Sydney and was initially named James [4, 14]. After his name change and legal adoption by James Oatley, Robert was baptized about a year after his arrival in Sydney [3, 4, 5]. Robert did not marry.

Other descendents of Oatley, Snr.[edit]

  • Gwen Ruth Oatley (1918–24 December 2000) was the granddaughter of James Oatley, Jnr's second son, Frederick [3, 4, 5, 16]. Gwen was awarded an OAM in 1978 for services to the Australian film industry. Her obituary was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 25 January 2001 [5].
  • Frederick "Dudley" Weedon Oatley (1884–28 March 1919) was the grandson of Frederick Stokes Oatley [3, 4, 5, 16]. Frederick was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Australian Imperial Force and served in World War One [17, 18]. When he died, Frederick was given a funeral on 30 March 1919 with full military honours [5]. Frederick actually died from a massive hydatid cyst in his thoracic cavity, compressing his heart and lungs and resulting in widespread gangrene (Death Certificate) [3, 4, 5].

See also[edit]


1. Will of James Oatley

2. 1825 Muster of New South Wales

3. New South Wales Indexes for Births, Deaths and Marriages

4. Relevant Church Parish Records and transcripts, birth, death and marriage certificates

5. Death notice or other article: newspaper [TROVE: National Library of Australia ]

6. British Newspaper Archive

7. Index of NSW Convicts

8. 1791-1825 Register of Conditional Pardons

9. New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages

10. 1828 Census of New South Wales

11. Householders' Returns, 1841 Census of New South Wales

12. Sands Post Office Directory of Sydney (various years)

13. Sydney Street Directories (various publishers and editions)

14. Passenger list Northampton [held by National Library of Australia ]

15. Government Gazettes [available on various web-sites]

16. Ryerson Index [Internet]

17. World War One Nominal Roll

18. The AIF Project [University of New South Wales]

19. Catalogue of the Society of Australian Genealogists (Arch Gray Collection; AGCI Index (Australian Genealogical Computer Index); J D Mutch Index)


External links[edit]